This is Part 3 of a several part series documenting our trip to Tanzania for another once in a lifetime Safari which includes destinations like Qatar, Arusha, and a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti. This one is an overwhelming trip to document. There was just so much we experienced every day. Below are some of the highlights of the trip. If we remember something of note after this, we will make another post.

We have finally arrived!!! After taking a local flight from JRO airport, we landed on Singita’s dirt airstrip. The flight had one scary moment. As we descended for our landing, I noticed Vultures flying around the same altitude. I thought to myself, I hope the pilots are paying attention. Surely this can’t be the first time they have experienced this. Just then, the plane banks hard left. I was already watching out my window and saw the wing rise from the horizon and a Vulture whiz by. My wife and I were now getting nervous and just wanted to land. After a short time later and no more incidents, we were on the ground. I commented to the pilot, “that was a close one”. He said that we should have been on the flight a couple days prior as it was much closer and he thought for sure they were going to hit one. Yikes!

Landing as Sasakwa Airstrip
Landing as Sasakwa Airstrip

We had a moment to sit down and wait for luggage to be unloaded. Singita has a nice waiting area at the runway with drinks, sitting area, and rest rooms.

After a short wait, our guide loaded our bags and we were on the way to the lodge. Not even five minutes into the drive, we came across some Elephants and Zebras. I did not even have time to get my camera gear ready from the flight. I quickly unpacked it and started grabbing some pictures.

We then continued to make our way up the hill to the lodge. The lodge sits on top of a hill that overlooks the Grumeti Reserve which is adjacent to Serengeti National Park. The view is absolutely incredible.

We were given a quick tour of the main area of the property and then shown to our room.

The Grumeti Reserve was created by the Tanzanian government in 1994 in order to protect the path of the annual wildebeest migration and the indigenous biodiversity of this vast and important ecosystem. We were lucky enough to witness the relocation of 9 endangered Black Rhinos during our stay. On our drive we witnessed a caravan of trucks with armed rangers escorting two Pods on a flat bed truck. Medi, our guide, explained how this was a special moment that took a lot of planning between Tanzania and South Africa’s government. It also was very costly. Part of the cost to our stay actually gets donated to the Grumeti Reserve Fund which makes these situations possible.

We enjoyed the food provided during our stay. We actually found the food at Royal Malewane in South Africa more to our liking, but by no means was this food bad. We especially enjoyed the night they served a sampling of the local cuisine. They presented a family style serving with various meats and fishes. It was by far the best meal there. Also, during each game drive, we would stop for snacks and drinks. We would have coffee and pastries on the morning drives, and a sundowner in the evenings.

We hired a private guide, so we would have the vehicle to ourselves. We mentioned on the first drive that we really wanted to see a Leopard. This is something we did not get to see in South Africa and was high on our list. Also, I mentioned that I enjoy photographing birds. I was in luck since Tanzania has some very pretty ones.

Headed to Vehicle

As I mentioned above, our trip started off by seeing some Elephants, so here are some of the better Elephant pictures and videos we took.

On the first evening drive, we came across a tree standing tall by itself. Medi seemed a bit excited about it, but my wife and I did not see anything. As we approached, we saw some light tan colors in the green grass under the tree. It was a pride of Lions. They were all laying under the tree. Just to the left was a watering hole with two very muddy Hyenas. As the trip went on, we got to see a mother and her cubs, a pride drinking from a watering hole, and a male Lion mating, among other things. One of my favorite videos is the Lioness calling to the pride.

As I mentioned, I like seeing the incredible bird species while on Safari. I got to see the beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller, Long Crested Eagles, and the Secretary bird, among many others.

During our afternoon break between drives, we would often sit on the back patio. We would wait with our cameras in case something interesting came along to drink from our pool. I assumed all we would see would be birds due to the elevation drop off at the edge of the pool. I was wrong. Out of nowhere, a Baboon jumped up from below the pool and began to drink. My wife and I were terrified at first since our first experience was with the very aggressive Baboons in South Africa. I grabbed a couple quick pictures and moved slowly to the door directly behind us. It was locked. I never thought to unlock all the doors to provide a quick escape. We slowly crept over to the main door which brought us closer to the Baboon. It seemed more scared of us then we were of it. We relaxed a bit and stood and watched. Several more Baboons arrived, some carrying babies! They all grabbed a drink while keeping a close watch on us. I ended up with some great shots of them and their babies.

On our afternoon drive on the second day, I spotted an Eagle on the ground. I started to take pictures of it as it flew away with what looked like a turtle in it’s talon. As I took a series of photos, some movement on the ground caught my eye. Without much thought, I shouted Pangolin to my wife and Medi. I was very confident that it was a Pangolin. I could feel the doubt from Medi and my wife. Pangolins are rare and very hard to spot. Medi turned the vehicle and headed toward the sighting. We got close and it started to move. I never would have thought that Medi would be more excited than me. I spotted only the second Pangolin he has ever seen and he has been a guide for 8 years. It was the only animal we encountered on the entire trip that he took a picture of. It was such a sighting, the head ranger from the lodge made a special trip down before we left it so that he could see it too. By the next morning, everyone at the Lodge had heard of the sighting and we were the talk of the day.

The Cheetah has also been one of my favorite animals. To see it walk among the tall grasses surrounded by animals like Topis and Zebras was a bucket list viewing. And lets not downplay the fresh kill it was feeding on when we arrived. We got to watch it drag the entire Wildebeest under a tree of vultures waiting for the scraps.

Cheetah with Wildebeest Kill
Cheetah with Wildebeest Kill

On our last night drive of our stay, we were still tracking the elusive Leopard. I was quite sure we would not see one again. In my mind, I was both happy and sad. Sad that I would not see one, but happy as now we have a reason to come back! A storm was rolling in and we knew the drive would be cut short. Just then Medi heard a call on the radio and sped up. We were hopeful this would be it. We arrived to one other vehicle watching a Leopard moving toward a dense tree. Our driver positioned our vehicle absolutely perfectly. The Leopard got on top of a dead tree briefly, yawned, and then climbed into the tree. It laid down as if it was posing for my photo. I was worried my 80-400mm lens would not be fast enough to capture the subject in the stormy low light conditions, but it was! Take a look.

Leopard in Tree

Each night after dinner, an escort walks us back to our room for safety. One night the escort stopped suddenly. We froze and started looking around in the dark. We could hear something rustling not far away. He shined his flashlight around and not 15 feet from us was a Buffalo. You wouldn’t think it, but buffalo are very dangerous and have killed more big game hunters than any other animal. Luckily, this one was not feeling an attack and moved on. This sighting was the night after a herd of elephants moved through the property damaging several trees and leaving a path of destruction. Speaking of herds, we were there during the end of the great migration. There were so many herds of Wildebeest, Zebras, and Topis.

Topi Herd
Topi Herd

There are so many other species of animals, it is hard to dedicate just one section of photos to each. Here is a bunch of random photos of other animals and scenery we got to see on this amazing trip.

We really enjoyed this trip and are already thinking of when we can go back. We also want to visit Singita Kwitonda to go Gorilla Trekking. Be sure to check out our other posts from this Trip. Our next post of this series will be our Hot Air Balloon ride over the Serengeti.

Photos from our stay at Singita Sasakwa in Tanzania, 2019
Videos from our trip to Singita Sasakwa in Tanzania.

Take a look below for our next post on our trip to Tanzania.